We love that National French Toast Day (Nov. 28) falls just after Thanksgiving and before the December holiday eating marathon. After all, we might starve from lack of carbs in between.
For our money, we like French toast better than pancakes. It has a certain cachet on the breakfast table and is another way for us to drown something in maple syrup. Here are two spots that put delicious spins on french toast.
We love the Campfire Grill (3003 Walden Ave., Depew) for its food and especially because it’s nothing remotely like camping but instead a warm and cozy restaurant with camping decor. Scott Jargiello and Tabitha Carroll opened the restaurant in October 2014. They invented many of the unique items on the menu, including their version of French toast called “griddle toast.”
Made with thick Texas toast, there is a regular version that soaks the bread and adds cinnamon and vanilla. But we like crunchy griddle toast, that takes French toast a little further. After dipping in egg wash and grilled, it's coated with crushed vanilla almond granola.
“When we first opened, Scott said he wanted to do something different than regular French toast,” said Carroll. “I think we tried making it with cereal at first, but that didn’t work, so Scott said, ‘Just roll it in granola,' and it worked.”
The granola gives the French toast texture and just a hint of granola flavor. (We tell ourselves it must be healthier, too.)
Even more intriguing are the griddle toast logs.
“For those we cut the crust off the bread and actually flatten it, add sweet cream cheese and berries then roll it back up. It’s then dipped in the egg wash and deep fried. Then rolled in a cinnamon sugar,” said Carroll. “Some people actually order it as an appetizer before breakfast or for a dessert after lunch,” she laughed. (It sounds like something that is worthy of the Erie County Fair.)
The Campfire Grill serves regular maple syrup plus two outstanding homemade syrups: strawberry and apple cinnamon.
On our stop, the darling waitress Meg pleaded the case for CF Grill’s pancakes – including the pumpkin swirl done with a cream cheese glaze and her favorite, cinnamon roll with a confectionery sugar glaze – so we had to sample them.
Carroll said, “I try to think of stuff in my head during the day, then make it, taste it and either add or fix it.” Well, keep thinking because we like what you’ve done to French toast.
The Campfire Grill (725-9969) is open Tuesday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Monday.
At Taste (634 Main St., East Aurora) owner Yvonne Evilsizor tells us the tiramisu French toast has been on the menu since she opened about 26 years ago.
“I know I was the first one to be approved for outdoor seating, too,” said Evilsizor. “East Aurora has really since grown to be a dream community with a unique atmosphere.” And Taste is part of the reason for it.
The tiramisu French toast is one of those items Evilsizor says she can never take off the menu because people love it.
Thick Italian bread is soaked in eggs/milk like traditional French toast and grilled. It's topped with outstanding mascarpone espresso cream, chocolate chips and homemade tiramisu syrup. One would suspect it to be ultra-sweet but that’s the beauty of it, it’s not. The cream and syrup have just a hint of coffee, which fits with the whole vibe of a neat coffee shop.
In addition to coffee drinks, other beverages include mulled cider and flavored nutmilks. Guests are given a celebrity name to pick up the order, another tradition started when Taste opened.
"We wanted to be playful," said Evilsizor. "Everyone used to get excited and look up and around to see if they could actually see Brad Pitt picking up his sandwich. We certainly have fun with it."
If you haven’t been to Taste, it’s worth the trip just to check out the funky old books and albums for sale along with the quirky décor.
The walls show pictures of the over 100-year-old grain mill/feed store (Griggs & Ball Co.) that was turned into commercial space, including Taste. The one wall is actually where the door and windows into Griggs & Ball were located along the side.
“I would walk around the empty space and try to envision where my tables and chairs would be,” she said. Guests can now sit at those tables and chairs and eat French toast while they listen to live music Friday and Saturday nights from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Taste (655-1874) is open Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.